Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Can You Identify this Bug?

As cabin craziness descended, stuck in-doors at the in-laws while 'the blizzard' caused the NFL (in its infinite 'wusiness') to cancel the Philadelphia Eagles game, I staved off boredom for a few seconds by scrolling through the farrago of photographs on my BlackBerry. There I found the snapshot I got of this creep back in late October with the intention of figuring out what the fuck it was:

So, cloud, any ideas? I went through the easily-available bug identifiers on the Web and have a few maybes (iron clad beetle, oak borer) but all with fatal flaws. So I'm hoping to crowd-source an entomologist for an official taxonomy. Since I don't know one (an entomologist) and if you're generally a fan of advancing knowledge, indulging curiosity or testing the networking power of the Web, your assistance would be appreciated.

Though it would be a fitting prey for such a prehistoric parasite, that's not woolly mammoth pelt in the background of the photo. Which brings me to my next point on the vexing duality of the flokati rug. Think carefully before you indulge in one.

As for pros, flokatis are awesome to look at in both chocolatey brown or creamy white shag varieties and feature miraculously luxurious tufts of wool. Mine at 13' by 9' is great for warming up a drafty, hard-floored apartment and feels great on bare feet.

As for cons, flokatis are heavy as shit (just imagine skinning a woolly mammoth) and tend to shed such that my apartment rather than having traditional dust bunnies has 'flokati bunnies' thriving, reproducing and advancing towards culture in the nooks and crannies. The flokati-maker advised of this risk saying it wears off in a few years and can be helped along with regular raking of the flokati. So I bought a little kid rake at Target and bust it out when the mood strikes to tend my flokati. But we're about a year and half in and I still get rich harvests of wool when I rake it and the natural shedding still produces weekly armies of flokati bunnies, which need collection and management of their own.

Beyond that, the rug is dark and mysterious and its character stretches in this direction thanks to the difficulty of really getting in there and cleaning the thing. The wool is 5 inches deep in places and thick like natty dreads. Stuff falls in and never emerges and I have suspicions of an ecosystem evolving in its depths sort of like the benthic layers of the ocean where nutrients drift down in the form of dead whales and stuff and get consumed in the way of the one thing the Protestant could appreciate about the Indian - scarcity enforcing an economy where nothing gets wasted.

Hence this creeper, and its decided predatory appearance, hunting the thickets of my flokati was disturbing on a number of levels. Most ominously what it leaves to the imagination. If I found this fiend on the surface, what lurks below?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Onto Toronto!

The ride up to Toronto on Monday night was fascinating in the context of the enormous winter storm that scrambled the Midwest and coated it in a thick layer of snow over the weekend. Loved the views from 30,000 feet, including ice flows forming in Lake Erie, and the spectacular explosion of Christmas-lit homes surrounding the airport. Glad to see people still taking the Holiday lighting of homes as seriously Clark Griswold.

Some reason I find airplane rides to be contemplative time for myself and had my share of 'Up in the Air' moments, including a quiet celebration of my 30th segment on Delta this year which seals my second consecutive year of Silver Medallion membership. No small feat this, and one of the accurate representations from Up in the Air, business travelers where their loyalty status as badges of honor and now I see it: there are a handful of things you can't achieve without putting in the time. One is love. Another is airline status.

Not to equate the two, or isolate them as the only examples, but it's true. 30 segments is a lot of flying and it barely qualifies for the bottom rung of elite status.

For this sacrifice, I've earned the right to never pay for checking bags and the occasional upgrade pending availability and other travelers higher-up in the pecking order. Somehow it's worth it. Savings on the checked bag fees is actually huge, considering it also applies to my wife when she's traveling with, and the semi-frequent upgrades to 1st class are like the crack that keeps 'em coming back.

Still the experience of flying is worse now than its ever been. Maybe it's just because I'm doing more of it, or that my latest go was fraught with the nervous expectation and experience of delay, but it was almost comic how much of it now seems designed to skirt the edges of disaster and create delays.

One of the most frustrating is the trend to Smaller planes + Checked Bag Fees = More Headaches for the Carry-On Crowd thanks to gate-side bag checks, which in Toronto on Monday night made for a bone-chilling 5 minute wait on the tarmac for my bag. It was something like 14 degrees outside with 35 MPH winds.

The whole point of carry-on is to save time and money and the airlines have found a way to obliterate that efficiency as well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The LED Xmas Tree

Spurred by the obligatory sense of shame that guilts people into buying canvas grocery bags and giant corporations into buying carbon credits, and all to theoretically offset greenhouse gas output, I had to do something to apologize to Mother Nature for taking a tree into my home for the selfish purposes of a few weeks of holiday cheer.

Hence, the blindingly white LED lights gracing the boughs of my smallish Christmas tree. The packaging extols the energy efficiency of these lights compared to traditional, halogen Christmas lights and says that while they may be up to 10x the price on the front end, the energy savings and karmic value are more return-on-investment than you can shake a stick at. 

Unfortunately, they're not really delivering in the Christmas-cheer department which, for me, is priority number 1 when it comes to Christmas lights. In the name of energy-savings these lights have forsaken warm yuletidey glow for retina-searing intensity and suddenly my Christmas decorating is starting to feel less roasted-chestnut cozy and more glitch in the Matrix.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Charting Philadelphia Landmarks

Instead of working as hard as I could have today, I made this in PowerPoint because I'd always been curious to know:
From L to R: Pat's King of Steaks, Independence Hall, Rittenhouse Square, Citizen's Bank Park, Battleship, Aircraft Carrier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Off(s)

* I love sensations, but I hate sensation.

*Monterey Jack is in all ways an inferior cheese when compared to cheddar, unless your thing is rubbery texture. (Which, who wants to admit that?) Cheddar always.

*The thing you have to question about social networking is its intrinsic, paradoxical combination of courage-by-electronic proxy and undeniability. It used to take a lot of guts to pick up the phone and call a girl. Now you can just sleaze it up behind the mask of digital media. So the problem becomes the written record of stupidity following you around. Seems like it would have been easier when things weren't always recorded for cringe-induction come morning's sobriety but if anything people aren't deterred (as rationale would predict) but emboldened!